Academic journal article Notes

Two Operas by Cavalli

Academic journal article Notes

Two Operas by Cavalli

Article excerpt

Francesco Cavalli. La Calisto: Dramma per musica by Giovanni Faustini. Edited by Alvaro Torrente (score), Nicola Badolato (libretto). (Francesco Cavalli Opere.) Kassel: Barenreiter, 2012. [Pref. in Eng., p. vii-viii; introd. in Eng., p. ix-xxvi; libretto in It., Eng., p. xxvii-lxiii; plates, p. lxiv-lxix; characters' ranges/instruments, p. [2]; index of scenes, p. [3-4]; score, p. 5-132; crit. report, p. 135-52. ISMN 979-0-006-55660-1; pub. no. BA 8901. 239 [euro].]

Francesco Cavalli. Artemisia: Dramma per musica by Nicolo Minato. Edited by Hendrik Schulze (score), Sara Elisa Stangalino (libretto). (Francesco Cavalli Opere.) Kassel: Barenreiter, 2013. [Pref. in Eng., p. vii-viii; introd. in Eng., p. ix-xxxii; libretto in It., Eng., p. xxxiii-xci; plates, p. xcii-xcviii; characters' ranges/instruments, p. [2]; index of scenes, p. [3-5]; score, p. 7-188; crit. report, p. 191-212. ISMN 979-0-006-55666-3; pub. no. BA 8906. 294 [euro].]

Resurgence of interest in the operas of Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) began in the late 1960s, spearheaded by the fanciful realizations by Raymond Leppard of several works. "Fanciful" is not used as much as a criticism--indeed, he did bring these forgotten gems onto the stage after many centuries of neglect--as it is a description of his thought process in doing so. Many alterations were made to the scores--reduction in the number of acts, abrupt transpositions of vocal parts, and overlapping of recitatives creating duets not in the original--so that the resultant work bore little resemblance to Cavalli's intention, and what seventeenth-century audiences may have experienced in live performance (for a more detailed account of some of these changes, see Carl Schmidt's review of a recording of Cavalli's L'Ormindo and L'Erismena, in Journal of the American Musicological Society 24, no. 2 [Summer 1971]: 313-17).

Opera in Venice as public entertainment came about in 1637 with the opening of the Teatro di San Cassiano. Traditionally these works were performed during the Carnival season (a period before the more introspective time of Lent), which lent itself to wild abandon, lascivious intrigues, and hidden desires unmasked. Carnival revelers were hungry for melodramatic works, filled with bawdy humor, and comic collisions of high and low culture. Opera, of course, was the perfect vehicle to provide all of these attributes in a single evening's entertainment. Dramas that featured mythological characters, fantastical scenes made possible by sophisticated stage machinery, and music that incited the passions were required to satisfy the paying public and to be successful. Fickle in their tastes, audiences would quickly turn their backs on a particular production if it did not rise to the level of their expectations. Cavalli was the most prolific and successful composer of this period, producing some forty operas, fourteen of which are now lost, before his death in 1676. Composers of opera in previous generations--Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), and Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)--focused more on the ideals of the Florentine Camerata, where the emphasis was placed on the text, the vocal music performed as if it were spoken, and the appearance of lyrical movements was rare. Cavalli's greatest contribution to the genre was perhaps the transformation from recitative as the main mode of communication in baroque opera, to include sections of arias and ariettas that moved seamlessly from one to the other.

Recent scholarly work on Cavalli and opera in seventeenth-century Venice has brought the composer's works back to center stage through performance and critical inquiry. Chief among this literature is Readying Cavalli's Operas for the Stage: Manuscript, Edition, Production (ed. Ellen Rosand, Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera [Farnham, Surrey, Eng.; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013]). Several editions of Cavalli operas outside of Leppard's realizations have appeared, some in facsimile publications, others in performing and critical editions. …

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